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Survey: Few Americans Want to Leave Confederate Monuments as They Are, but Divides Over Solutions Persist by Party, Race, Religion

PRNewswire/ — A new national survey conducted jointly by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and E Pluribus Unum finds nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%), including 89% of Democrats, 75% of independents, and 51% of Republicans, support doing something about existing Confederate memorials and statues in public spaces—whether that’s re-contextualizing them with information about the history of slavery and racism, moving them to a museum, or destroying them—rather than leaving them as they are.

“Race, religion, and political affiliation strongly color the lens through which Americans view our past and its legacy today,” says Robert P. Jones, president and founder of PRRI. “Yet, the broad support for honest conversations about our shared history, repairing the damages of historic racism, and reimagining our public spaces to embrace everyone can offer a road map for how and what our communities choose to honor in the future.”

When respondents were asked about preserving the legacy of the Confederacy, the partisan and religious divides are deeper. A slim majority of Americans (51%) support preserving Confederate history through public memorials and statues. Republicans overwhelmingly back efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy (85%), compared with less than half of independents (46%) and only a quarter of Democrats (26%). Religion also plays a role in support for preserving the Confederate legacy, with white Christian groups more likely to express support than non-Christian religious Americans, Jewish Americans, or the religiously unaffiliated.

Support for Confederate monuments is positively correlated with views about the existence of structural racism—the idea that slavery and past discrimination continue to have effects today. Those supportive of keeping Confederate monuments or preserving the legacy of the Confederacy are also likely to deny the existence of structural racism.

Americans’ awareness of and support for Confederate memorials, statues and other commemorative symbols frequently diverge along both partisan and racial/ethnic lines, with Black Americans often holding views distinct from other groups. Meanwhile, at least nine out of ten Republicans, compared with about four in ten Democrats, see each of these as a manifestation of Southern pride, rather than of racism.

Almost all Americans (90%) say they support efforts to tell the truth about the history of slavery, violence, and discrimination against racial minorities in their communities, including 84% of Republicans. Additionally, three quarters of Americans (74%) support repairing the damage done by past violence or discrimination against racial minorities, including more than half of Republicans (52%).

“The impact of the Confederacy extends far beyond its former geographic borders. Still, while Americans experience issues around race differently, there is often more common ground than we realize,” says Scott Hutcheson, managing director of E Pluribus Unum. “Identifying what unites us will help us find solutions to undo the legacy of slavery and racism and move toward building more inclusive and equitable communities.”

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The full report, Creating More Inclusive Public Spaces: Confederate Memorials, Structural Racism, and Building for the Future, is available at prri.org.

About PRRI

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.

About E Pluribus Unum

Founded by former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2018, E Pluribus Unum (EPU) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to build a more equitable and inclusive South, uprooting the barriers that have long divided the region by race and class. 

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